At least we now know Number 10 can organise a p***-up, even if it wasn’t in a brewery. Some of their decision-making in recent weeks, and indeed since the start-of the pandemic, had rather suggested it was beyond them. Nowhere is that more clear than in the ongoing work from home order, which is gradually tightening a noose around city centre businesses.
Nobody has accused the government of applying too much logic to its decision-making on Covid-19 restrictions, but at the moment the gap between common sense and the guidance is particularly wide. At City A.M. we are all grateful that hospitality venues remain open and that we can still attend the football or the theatre in what would otherwise be a particularly grim January. But why, then, does the government insist that going to work is unduly dangerous?
Businesses in our city centres are in the worst of all possible worlds, with precious little financial support from government but clear guidance to their customers to steer clear. It is as if Boris Johnson has taken a break from hiding from questions about his party-going to stand in front of pubs and sandwich shops warning of the dangers within. Rishi Sunak, who so far has been a welcome friend of business in the Cabinet during the ongoing pandemic panic, has gone silent on new support. A £6,000 grant will not cut it.
The Government appears to have rediscovered its frugal instincts, which is no bad thing. But by cutting off support now they risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What was the point of hugely expensive furlough schemes if, just as those businesses using them can see the light of the day, they run out of steam thanks to the work from home guidelines?
Businesses cannot get used to constant government support. We must all learn to live with a changed world, and cut the cloth accordingly. But a little more help now would go a long way to ensuring that gone before wasn’t wasted.